Friends without Facebook

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Even with more than 500 million active members, Facebook’s users only make up approximately 8 percent of the world’s population. Some refuse to use the social network because of privacy concerns or disinterest.

Photo Credit: Allen Otto | Daily Texan Staff

Living in a city that embraces technology the way Austin does can make Facebook and other social networking tools seem ubiquitous. Obama has a Facebook. Bill Powers has a Facebook. The guy “taking notes” in class on his laptop probably has one, and he probably has it open right now.

Facebook currently has more than 600 million users worldwide, and for many of them — especially in the U.S., where there are about 150.5 million users — having a Facebook profile feels as normal as owning a cell phone. But for the rest, the social networking behemoth isn’t necessarily a great fit. Statistics regarding the number of people who don’t have Facebook profiles weren’t available, but considering the U.S. population in 2010 was 308.7 million, according to the most recent census, it can be assumed more than half the country doesn’t have a Facebook. They might just be a little hard to get a hold of.

“In time, Facebook will become as passe as oh, Netscape [Navigator] or surfing on the web is now thanks to apps on phones,” said George Sylvie, an associate professor of journalism. “In a way, [people who don’t use Facebook] are smart in that this too shall pass as it pertains to being a trend or being considered as necessary. On the other hand, people who do not, and proudly so, do not participate, tend to do that at their own risk.”

These are the people who have found that taking that risk is not that big a deal, he said — or so they claim.

“In other words, their ignorance is their bliss. But at the same time, these are probably some of the people that complain that nobody calls them,” he said.

Those who are without a Facebook or late to join the bandwagon are called “laggards” in academic terms, Sylvie said.

“They’re the last, shall we say, 5 to 10 percent of people to adopt. Now there are always laggards for every type of technology — would you believe that not everybody has a telephone? And they’re doing fine. For their purposes they’ve got other ways of communication,” he said. “You have to realize that Facebook is not the only way to communicate. People have other ways. There are all kinds of reasons that people don’t keep up with technology development.”

ComScore, an Internet marketing research company that provides data and services to Internet giants such as Google and Yahoo, reported that 693 million unique visitors worldwide (ages 15 years or older) visited Facebook in March this year, up 43 percent from the same month in 2010. Recent disputed reports declare Facebook growth is slowing down in the U.S., but the site still saw about 157.2 million unique U.S. visitors in May.

Data gathered by Wedbush Securities Inc. and reported in January by Business Insider found that for the 2,500 Facebook non-users over 18 years of age surveyed, the No. 1 reason for not participating was because they saw Facebook as a “waste of time.” Privacy concerns were the second-most cited reason, followed by “no time” and “don’t know how to use it.”

This correlates with the reasons that some UT students gave for not using Facebook.

“I was using it every day — very, very often,” said Aaron Lee, who graduated from UT last year with a degree in economics. “That’s why I came to the realization that I wasted a lot of time on it. I felt like Facebook was consuming me because I was on it all the time. I mean, I have an iPhone and I have a computer and I work on a computer at work, so I was constantly on Facebook all day long. It was too much of a distraction.”

Lee, who stopped using Facebook in January, doesn’t know anybody else who doesn’t use Facebook, but he said that sacrificing the event invites and friends’ photos, which Lee considers benefits of the site, doesn’t really matter to him or anyone else he knows.

“People would tell me ‘I’ll just contact you via Facebook,’ and I’d tell them that I don’t have one and and they’d be like, ‘Oh, but why?’ and would say that it’s kind of weird because it’s become such a norm now,” Lee said. “What I’ve experienced so far, they don’t really seem like they care too much. They just get my phone number.”

Madelyn Deyoung, a biology junior, has never had a Facebook.

“Part of me thinks that it’s a waste of time,” Deyoung said. “Everyone sits down and stares at pictures of other people. You make lots of friends, but the whole thing kind of stunk. I had Myspace before and sometimes people would spend hours on there. I don’t understand why, I don’t think of it as a necessity. I don’t want a lot of random people trying to be my friend on Facebook. I think that’s really strange. It’s not always sincere whenever you’re saying hello.”

Deyoung said that she’ll probably get a Facebook in the future in order to keep in touch with friends and stay updated with clubs, but for right now, she’s fine with not having it.

“Some people think [people who don’t use Facebook] are weird, but I don’t see why,” Deyoung said. “I always thought that I shouldn’t have to have Facebook to keep in touch with the people I’m friends with. I feel like if a person says ‘hey’ to you on Facebook, it takes less than a second, but if they take the time to call you then it kind of means something more. They really want to talk to you, they’re not just bored on Facebook.”